As a sales leader in a start-up (and this covers all the major titles, with multiple hats being worn by more than one person in many cases), it is important to set realistic expectations for sales numbers – both for yourselves, investors and your sales team.
We have often seen companies set aggressive year 1 and year 2 targets only to be let down when they were not achieved. The first couple of years, in almost all start-ups, whether you boot-strap it or successfully raise funds, tend to be the leanest – lots of work is put into to build a qualified sales funnel and identify what the messaging and value proposition is to generate the most interest from prospects.
Often times unless you have experience “selling” people can under-estimate the length of the sales cycle, particularly in B2B sales, and underappreciate the process involved in B2B selling.
Here are some tips to consider when setting realistic year 1 and year 2 sales targets:
- Be Conservative With Your Expectations Hockey stick curves look great in presentations and doing explosive growth excel models is exciting, but it's very hard to achieve on the ground in practice.
- Break Down Revenue Targets Into Achievable Activities Think about each activity and the time they will take to complete. As a quick example, on the first day we began proactively cold calling for one of our clients, I was able to secure a meeting with a large waste management company. From that initial call it took another 9 months to close and complete a deal.
- Ensure Your Team Has The Resources They Need to Sell In today’s B2B marketplace, it's crucial for your business to embrace, at a minimum, the following marketing tactics: a solid website, brochures, case studies (the more quantitative the better since stories sell).
- Cold Calling Create a standardized cold calling script and email template for your sales team to use. The more quantitative information available for use here the better – numbers sell.
- Fill The Funnel A full funnel should always be top of mind, especially in the early years of a startup. Work tirelessly to get your sales funnel as full as possible, as conversions will be lower in the early years.
- Account Targeting Ensuring that your account targets are well defined is key. Make sure your sales team know their roles well and their prospecting efforts don't overlap.
- Defined Sales Processes and CRMs Clearly define the linkages between your sales processes and desired CRM system use. Documenting all activities in your CRM of choice will keep your sales team focused and driven.
- Speak to Your Peers Always be sure to leverage other leaders in the startup space to learn from their experiences. Why reinvent the wheel? Don't make mistakes others can easily help you avoid.
Remember that you are your best sales person. In many cases, especially early on, you should be out there selling and closing. Use your timelines for a successful close as a guideline and keep track of the time from the first call you made to winning the business. Don’t expect your sales people to sell any faster than you can, especially early on.
If you want more information on setting realistic goals and building a startup sales team, feel free to contact us at any time.